The job of head football coach at Clarkston High School is about more than wins and losses for Gary Wansley.
The job for the eight-year resident of Clarkston is a chance to instill pride in a community through the football program.
“My wife and I bought a house in the city limits and we’re proud of the community,” Wansley said. “I don’t plan on going anywhere. I want the football program to be the glowing spirit that it once was here in Clarkston. I think this program definitely has a chance for success.”
Wansley took over in April after former coach Jay Rollerson was fired after four seasons at the school. Although this is Wansley’s first head coaching job, he has been around winning programs both as a player and a coach. He played at Class A power Buford and graduated in 1995, then spent several seasons as an assistant coach there. He was the linebackers coach and assistant head coach at M.L. King last season under Mike Carson, although he taught in the Gwinnett County school system last year.
The Angoras were 4-36 under Rollerson and the team has not won more than four games in a season since 1998. That also was the last time the Angoras went to the playoffs in football. During a 13-year stretch from 1986-98, the Angoras qualified for the state playoffs eight times. Clarkston posted its best record in 1993 at 12-1 and advanced to the state semifinals before losing to Winder-Barrow in the third round.
A large number of refugee and immigrant students has made it challenging to produce a winning football program on a regular basis.
“The long-term goal is to have a respectable program,” Wansley said. “We want to build a tradition of excellence with a discipline mindset. We want to change the culture of the program.”
Wansley said the most difficult thing will be to get his players to buy into his plan.
“The toughest battle will be getting the team to trust you and to know that you’re for them,” Wansley said. “Kids don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care about them. [Clarkston] has been on the losing side for a long time and we want to change things and not waver from it. I do believe the community has something special to offer.”
Wansley, first cousin to former University of Georgia player Tim Wansley, played running back and linebacker at Buford and went on to play football at Fort Valley State, where he earned his bachelor’s degree.
Since his family has lived in the area for a long time, Wansley said he believes that will help him get and maintain support from the community.
“Spring training was productive even though I wasn’t in the building during school because I was still teaching at Gwinnett,” Wansley said. “We spent time setting and understanding expectations. We were able to start building relationships with the kids.”